Super Quickie

britanica.com

You may have noticed that there was no wordpress wednesday post this week. Last Thursday, the day after the regular breakdown of race, gender, and sexuality issues with wordpress’ highlight page, wordpress staff chose to highlight a post about “not seeing race”. The post, written by a white male heterosexual middle class author about his white male middle class son’s trip to the library blended his son’s questions about race with the historical experience of a black child who had been denied entrance/use of the public library for years. One child, experienced state sanctioned discrimination exacerbated by individual actions, the other was reading a book about him in which he took away one question “dad, am I black?” Which led the father to ask him why he would ask such a question and then praise the “race blindness” of his son who just assumed people were “different shades of the same color”. Neither his father nor the post questioned the underlining issues here:

  1. there is no comparison between a black child actually being discriminated against and a white child who fears he would be (& let’s be clear, that is what the child was asking)
  2. race blindness in children is possible minus the issues we normally attributed to such a stance, but this child was not “race blind” he just did not know that “shades” had names
  3. more significantly, while he was clearly unaware/uninvested in white supremacy (the idea that white is best),he had already internalized the idea of white normativity because his shade theory depended on a norm – white; white normativity is necessary for white supremacy
  4. race blind liberalism is not only a form of erasure, in which we are once again all consumed by an unmarked normative (ie white) but also has been a key tool of conservatives to deny people of color financial aid, equity in education and employment, etc.

The father’s response was to praise his child’s “shade theory” rather than to give his child the tools he needs to understand AND embrace cultural differences and histories of discrimination (which I assumed was part of the reason he checked out the book about the black child and the library in the first place). In other words, he took a teachable moment and used it to reinforce misconceptions and misinformation about race that will continue the patterns of racial conflict that exist on the left, ie between people who “don’t mean it” but do it all the time and their targets, and upholds those conflicts on the right, ie the people who do mean it and don’t care. (Of course these left-right categories are arbitrary here since the operational aspects of racism on either side of the political divide can be unintentional or intentional depending on the person.)

In conclusion, the post asked us all to emulate this child, because there is too much emphasis on race in our world and just not seeing it or understanding it would solve everything …

After such a post, how could I possibly continue to mark out how wordpress’ “race blind” policies on their highlight page translate to elevating posts written almost exclusively by white heterosexual middle class parenting white cis people for the same and at least bi-weekly praising a post that insults at least one group of people of color, was … RACIST. Clearly if I just stopped seeing color and thought in terms of shades, I would not possibly notice that there is only 1 shade represented most days and very rarily 2 but seldom 3 and then the people who were that shade could continue to think of themselves as “good people”.

Next Wednesday, the wordpress fail posts will be back.

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WordPress Wednesday Aug 18: The Fail Continues

Think about this as you read these stats, blogging is not only the new way of publishing it is increasingly the way to access the old way of publishing as well, it is also second only to twitter as a go to source for media pundits looking for “the pulse of the nation” or the “important story”, and it is one of two media sites that form the basis for much electronic research. When we are not included in the places that legitimate and draw attention to the voices on the internet we are in essence once again being erased and shoved out. Since blogging is a medium that so many diverse people have made their home, and wordpress among the top places to do it, doesn’t it warrant at least a question about why they choose such a narrow focus in representing both their brand and all of us?

brittanica.com

Here are this week’s stats:

Images

  • men of color: 18
  • women of color: 6
  • TOTAL PICS OF PEOPLE OF COLOR: 24
  • white men: 40
  • white women: 32
  • TOTAL PICS OF WHITE PEOPLE: 72

The number of white people pictured on chosen posts outnumbered people of color by almost 3xs as much this week. All of these images were of able-bodied cis gender people. Images of white women were 5xs more likely than images of women of color and even more were likely to be seen on the Freshly Pressed page pointing you there because images of women of color appeared in posts with images of white people and the latter were almost always chosen for the Freshly Pressed page image. White men outnumbered men of color two to one and would also have been overrepresented on the Freshly Pressed page for the reasons listed above.

Authors

  • men of color: 3
  • women of color: 2
  • TOTAL AUTHORS OF COLOR: 5
  • white men: 12
  • white women: 30
  • TOTAL WHITE AUTHORS: 42

The number of people of color featured remained constant from last week representing an average of 1.7% of the total available bloggers for highlighting. The number of people of color blogging on wordpress is unavailable but they certainly make up more than 2% of the 280,000 bloggers from which to choose. There were also three authors of unknown race, only one of whom was a woman and one author who identified as asexual gender neutral, who was white.

Gender & Sexuality

  • pictures of cis women: 37
  • pictures of cis men: 55
  • pictures of trans women: 1
  • pictures of trans men: 3
  • female authors: 33
  • male authors: 17
  • gender unknown: 1
  • gender neutral: 1
  • articles about feminism: 3
  • articles about queer rights: 1
  • articles about, related to, or otherwise assuming overt heterosexuality: 17

Interestingly, this week marked the first time since the study began where a photo of a white women used in the post was replaced by a photo of a white man not used in the post to highlight the post on the Freshly Pressed page. In other words, the blogger used an image of a woman and the wordpress staff replaced it on their page with a picture of a man.

On the plus side, this week marks the first time a post about transgender, gender queer, and transmisogyny has been highlighted during the study and in all the time I can remember glancing at the Freshly Pressed page. On the negative side, that post included 4 photos of transgender or gender queer people engaged in a photographic awareness campaign, none of whom where people of color. In looking at the source material I discovered that of the 20 photos in the exhibit the author had to choose from, there was only one person of color photographed. The failing then is both with the author of the blog post who failed to mention racially disparity or choose the only pic available of a person of color to include with the group of other images chosen and the project itself. I also noted that while this post was highlighted, there were several posts, including on this blog, about a similar project specifically highlighting the dual erasure of black trans people from mainstream society and trans communities, as well as highlighting their diversity across the African Diaspora, none of which were ever featured on Freshly Pressed.

There were an unusually high number of feminist posts this week as well given their general absence on the Freshly Pressed page. One of these posts highlighted global feminism but was actually a blog for an organization that features innovative speakers and puts the videos up on its website. The post was literally the name of an international speaker and the theme of her talk accompanied by the video. There was no analysis, no prose, nothing. Given the number of posts written by marginalized people on wordpress about global feminism this seemed like an odd choice to represent the best wordpress has to offer. Another post on feminism praised a movie that was essentially a colonial fantasy in which a white woman finds herself through a vacation in India, Brazil, and other exotic erotic places, complete with hooting at brown men, spending money to “save” poor kids, etc. The point of the post: anyone who disliked this movie was a sexist hater. The final feminist post critiqued the same film and originally questioned the classism and racism involved but was followed up by a non-featured post apologizing and claiming it was really a critique of narcissism.

While we are documenting the number of posts that reference heterosexuality outright, please do not take this to mean other posts are sexuality neutral. With few exception all of the posts highlighted on wordpress are written by or read as heterosexual posts due to their lack of queer content.

As white women continue to gain in the featured section, I wonder if this is why we cannot get any traction on this issue. Like the woman who sees critiquing colonialism as a sexist endeavor, is the fact that white women often dominate the freshly pressed section preventing them from engaging in a feminism or social justice mindset that includes the rest of us? And if so, why is this an all too familiar position for a group that would largely define themselves as socially engaged and inclusive? It should be noted that many of the people making decisions about features on wordpress are also white women who considered themselves social justice folks.

WordPress Criteria

  • grammatical errors: 11
  • copyright: 41

This category counts the items wordpress says will preclude you from being featured. Interestingly, this week wordpress published another post referencing the importance of copyright on images used on blogs at the same time that the number of copyright infringement based on freshly pressed images was at its highest.

This week also saw the largest number of blogs featured that had been featured before and/or were not actually blogs (company “blog” pages that simply pointed people back to the company and magazines that are hosted on wordpress.org) instead of looking at diverse authors who had not been highlighted prior. The number of professional journalists and photographers is also much higher in general on the freshly pressed page than people who blog as bloggers. Given the gender, race, sexuality, etc. disparities in print media, you can see how this would translate to similar disparities on the freshly pressed page.

WordPress Wednesday Aug. 4

brittanica.com

As promised, this marks week two of the raw data on the identities and subjects of bloggers highlighted by wordpress as the best bloggers on wordpress have to offer. While this week avoided outright racist posts about people of color the trend toward highlighting mostly white male authors and white heterosexual authors on Freshly Pressed continues. Among the things we found most interesting this week was that in order to give the appearance of diversity, wordpress staff used captured images from videos on several posts whose photographic images were all of white people; the videos were done by black artists. In another case, they used a captured image from a black artist’s video on a post that had several images relating to its actual subject matter, including a photo of children of color. In both cases, the captured images did not reflect the focus of the posts in question. In all cases, including one where the post was actually about a black artist and wordpress staff decided to use a more stereotypical looking captured image than the much clearer photos available in the post, the posts were written by white people so that the visual diversity they created on the Freshly Pressed page was dually misleading.

Also interesting was that in at least one case, a video capture of a black artist was used on the Freshly Pressed page for a post that focused primarily on Asians. At the same time the overwhelming majority of authors of color highlighted were either Asians (as in, APIs in Asia) or API Americans. Like last week, there were several days in which no authors of color were highlighted including today.

Another interesting trend that seems to be emerging is the fact that many authors addressing issues of language or race highlighted on the page are writing from outside of the U.S. The majority of these authors have been Australian but not all. Further their discussions of race are largely about imperialistic interplays rather than racial contentions and almost all are written from a white perspective. In some cases, this perspective has coincided with the desire to deconstruct colonial gazes while in others it has embraced them.

On the positive side, while women were seldom pictured this week, at least two images included “plus size” women. Both of these women were white.

Some Data Issues

The data on images in general is misleading this week because wordpress highlighted a post on India that was a photo essay so that people of color appear over represented in the sample this week when in fact they were only pictured in a few posts this week. Again, the author of that post was white and equally interesting, he had chosen a header image of a boy of color walking for his blog design.

The focus on animal and plant blogging also decreased the overall number of human images further inflating the number of people of color depicted this week beyond the actual reflection of representations chosen.

Also as implied by the beginning of this post, in order to cross-check this information you need to look at the posts since simply scanning the Freshly Pressed page can give the wrong impression about who and what is highlighted. Interestingly, wordpress is aware that I do these stats on Wednesday’s and today’s Freshly Pressed page is particularly misleading with regards to supposed diversity of highlighted posts.

News of the Odd

One of the outlined criteria for Freshly Pressed is that the posts be interesting, entertaining, or otherwise inform. While we ruled out counting posts we found “boring” because that was entirely too subjective, we did find it interesting that wordpress chose to highlight a flickr page and several magazines that are presumably hosted by wordpress rather than actual bloggers on the site. They also highlighted a blog post that seemed to imply it had been plagiarized, and one that, while fascinating, claimed that upper middle class students are more oppressed than anyone else. They also continued to highlight posts that had copyright infringements despite their express policy against doing so, and in one case the post amounted to one giant uncited photo and a paragraph of text.

The Raw Data

Here are the numbers for the week in their raw form. We are collecting more information than I have highlighted here but I want to focus on the identity issues that started this project.

There were roughly 278,000 bloggers and between 285,000 and 346,000 blog posts per day from which they chose 11 to highlight each day. This weekend no new posts were highlighted. We only counted actual photos of people not videos of people even when wordpress staff chose to ignore images in favor of video screen captures for the Freshly Pressed page. The reason for this was that we noticed how the video images they chose did not reflect the post & videos are rarely highlighted on Freshly Pressed posts which makes them less important to us as an overarching indicator.

Identity

  • pictures of men of color: 11
  • pictures of women of color: 3
  • TOTAL IMAGES OF PEOPLE OF COLOR: 14
  • pictures of white men: 19
  • pictures of white women: 12
  • pictures of white people where gender was unknown (feet, hands, arms, etc.):5
  • TOTAL IMAGES OF WHITE PEOPLE: 36
  • Images of white people in the header: 9
  • Images with people of color in the header: 1
  • men of color authors: 2
  • women of color authors: 5
  • person of color author where gender was not given: 1
  • TOTAL AUTHORS OF COLOR: 8
  • white male authors: 26
  • white female authors: 20
  • white author where gender was not given: 3
  • TOTAL WHITE AUTHORS: 49
  • authors who mention spouse or parenting: 14
  • authors who mention queer identity: 0
  • white identified or eurocentric posts: 3

You will note in this section that white people vastly outnumber people of color in both the images used for highlighted blogs and the people authoring them even with the issues of over-representation of images of poc this week.  You will also note that both with regards to authors and images, men outnumbered women overall while female authors of color outnumbered male authors of color. As implied there were no images or authors that identified as transgender and no mention of queer identity or couples. Images of older people in this week’s Freshly Pressed were also down, and those depicted were all men of color down on their luck in a photo essay in which everyone else appeared to be working class or higher reinforcing a eurocentric view of poc.

WordPress Criteria Stats

These stats include the things that wordpress has expressly said they would not highlight, like posts with grammatical errors or un-cited images or other copyright infringement.

  • Grammatical Errors: 7
  • Copyright Infringement: 17 (not counting youtube videos)

While this represents a small fraction of the highlighted posts, it stands to reason that in the 300,000+ posts each day that wordpress staff had to choose from, they could have found posts written by people of color and/or queer people that neither violated copyright or had grammatical errors to replace this posts.

Conclusions

Despite what one wordpress staff person said about the Freshly Pressed page striving to reflect the diversity of the bloggers who use their format, the reality seems indisputable. In the last two weeks alone the majority of blog posts highlighted have been written by and illustrated using images of white, heterosexual, cis people primarily from the middle or upper class. They have also assumed a white audience in many cases and in some recreated both sexist and eurocentric narratives.

If you are concerned about the lack of representation not only on the Freshly Pressed page but the way wordpress is ultimately crafting its image through that page, please link to this post using some of the data in your post and considering asking wordpress to be more inclusive.

WordPress Wednesday

brittanica.com

Last week, WordPress Freshly Pressed highlighted a post written by a white female author about “turning Asian” in which she listed a bunch of anecdotal behaviors that highlighted the “strangeness” of Asian people. This post concluded with a reference to the way Asians speak English as “a special regressed level of English.”

It was the second time in less than a month that I had been deeply disturbed by what WordPress staff thinks is the best blogging WordPress has to offer. The first time, the highlighted post was written by a black woman excusing away black face in the fashion industry. Surprisingly, my twitter followers were more upset about the former than the latter even though both seem extremely racist, or internalized racist, to me.

When one of my twitter followers/blogging colleagues took the initiative to contact WordPress about their decision to highlight “racialized posts” on the Freshly Pressed page, the response she received was “what does ‘racialized’ mean?” In other words, not only are the people at WordPress picking posts with racialized and/or racist content as the best of the best blogs on their site but they are not educated enough about diversity to even name what they are doing and own, defend, or change their decisions.

So I decided to help them. Ok, well only indirectly. What I decided to do is document the disparity for all of you and to ask you to link to these Wednesday posts as a way to raise awareness about the problem. Hopefully, instead of getting further marginalized by my blog hosts, this will foster some learning and growth. If not, I’m sure it will make for great publication and presentation material the next time I am asked to present on social media at a conference or write about it for a journal or anthology.

simplyzesty.com

The Project: Every Wednesday I will present several stats related to highlighted posts on Freshly Pressed designed to show who and what is being valued and who and what is being erased.

The Method: The same questions will be asked of, data collected on, each Freshly Pressed post and the information will be made available here in both raw and analyzed form

While I have tried to remain consistent with the questions I’ve asked, the first week of collecting data has raised some important questions about unmarked distinctions in what I have been tracking. For instance do posts that have been marked as “white identified”, ie those that assume a white audience without racializing that assumption in offensive ways, always reflect race or does it some times reflect race and class together? Why did I choose to track sexism but not gender, when both of these seem like salient variables? And when a post is marked down as having photos of white people, should the number of photos be counted? ie if there are 12 photos and only one has a white person in it, then is it misleading to say this is the same as a blog that has 5 photos all of which are of white people? And should a photo be counted twice if it has a white person and a person of color (ie once for a white photo and once for a poc photo) or should there be a third category for mulitcultural photo? It seems to me that these distinctions matter when trying to quantify the identity politics, particularly racial ones, that seem to underpin the Freshly Pressed section of WordPress and ultimately the success of certain bloggers over others and the face of WordPress overall. So I;m still tweaking the questions/data collection process and it will likely look different from week to week until I am satisfied with a core set of questions. What this means is that some sets will not be comparable to others when all is said and done. For blogging purposes however, the key information will remain the same.

So Here is the raw data for week 1:

Every week there are 11-12 posts highlighted per weekday on Freshly Pressed. On the weekend 1-2 new posts maybe added to the highlighted posts for Friday, knocking off 1-2 Friday posts. The number of bloggers and blog posts available to choose from varies but on average there are between 277,000 and 278,000 bloggers and 300,000-360,000 posts from which to choose from. The number of bloggers of color, queer bloggers, female bloggers, etc. is unknown however several of the more recognized blogs from perspectives written by traditionally marginalized authors as well as academic blogs are housed on WordPress.com or wordpress.org vs alternative sites.

Race

When the racial identity of the author was unavailable, it was not recorded.

  1. pictures of people of color: 4
  2. pictures of white people: 29
  3. authored by person of color: 4
  4. authored by white people: 58
  5. colonial gaze: 4
  6. white normative but non-colonial: 7

Gender & Sexuality

  1. reference to wife/husband, kids, boyfriend/girlfriend (hetero): 13 – this item only counted 4 days
  2. reference to partner, bf/gf (same sex): 0
  3. reference to same sex attraction or queer identity: 0
  4. sexist content: 2
  5. image of big women: 1
  6. feminist: 1 (this post was about correcting disparities in women driving stick not a self-identified feminist post)

Content

This category includes data collected specifically because it violated the rules established by WordPress to qualify for Freshly Pressed status. These rules include: original photographs or properly cited and correct use of grammar.

  1. uncited or improperly cited photographs: 12
  2. grammatical or spelling errors: 14
  3. activist posts: 1
  4. product review: 6
  5. travel: 13

Other

This includes things that we found interesting because they stood out from other posts

  1. second reference to “real Africa” in less than a month, this time positively deconstructed
  2. “I was taught the laws are there to protect our freedoms” example of white normative but non-colonial/non-racist stance
  3. posts with pictures of older people: 3

I don’t have enough data yet to make conclusions. However, as you can see, it is pretty clear that the majority of wordpress posts highlight white, heterosexual, authors over the wide range of authors present on the wordpress format. I am also hypothesizing that the preference for artfully illustrated food blogs, travel narratives, and expensive product review tips the scales toward white and upper class authors and that all though today’s Freshly Pressed included a post railing against the baby products industry that there is an overrepresentation of young, urban, white, parenting authors as well. While I expected to see regularly offensive posts based on my random glance over the Freshly Pressed blogs over the past year, which included racial over tones and sexist images, I was surprised to find far less colonial gaze, outright racism, and outright sexism in collecting the data so far.